Red Storm offer chance for rebound
Last weekend the Rutgers tennis team faced defeat at the hands of Big East foes Marquette and No. 26 DePaul. The Scarlet Knights have the opportunity to pick themselves back up when they host St. John's today in a 2 p.m. match.Rutgers (11-7, 5-3) could do no wrong for the better part of March and April, but the Knights were outscored by a total of 12-2 in back-to-back matches in Milwaukee over the weekend.
Despite the sudden roadblock in an otherwise successful season, assistant coach Alex Arlak believes the team's confidence is not wilted. "We're not shaken at all," Arlak said. "If anything, we're excited to get back out there and we're hungry for a win. We played some very tough teams last weekend and now we have a chance to beat another conference opponent." St. John's (8-9, 4-1) comes to Piscataway as a very hot team. The Red Storm began the season dismally and put themselves in a 1-8 hole. However, they have since won eight of their last nine contests — including four consecutive Big East matches — and would reach the .500 mark for the first time in 2010 with a win over the Knights. The Knights defeated the Johnnies 5-2 last season when they met in Queens, N.Y. Despite St. John's recent winning ways, Rutgers junior ace Amy Zhang remains unfazed. "Their Big East wins have come against some of the weaker teams in the conference," Zhang said. "Based on their lineup and the way we beat them pretty decisively last year, I expect us to win. Their lineup hasn't changed much and we're confident we can beat them." Rutgers is 5-0 in home matches this season, with the four most recent wins coming against conference opponents. Based on the team's track record at home this spring, Rutgers appears to have an advantage. "There is a sense of comfort at home," Arlak said. "The team is more relaxed and the fans come out to support us. We want to make a stand in the conference and boost our confidence. It's an even match on paper and a win for us would go a long way." Though the Knights' chances for earning a bye in the Big East tournament fell by the wayside last weekend, the team still has a realistic shot at earning one of the tourney's top six seeds. While Rutgers will not enjoy a day off, it could take on one of the conference's lowly programs in the first round and use the match as a tune-up. "It would be nice to have a less difficult match in the first round because it only gets harder as you move on," Arlak said. "There are always some nerves in the beginning of the tournament and the team could come out a little shaky, so it would definitely be to our advantage to start off against a low seed." Rutgers would certainly help its case for a top tourney spot with a win over the Red Storm. On the heels of two very disappointing losses, the Knights look to prove they still belong among the Big East's elite. Sophomore Jen Holzberg said the team is ready to continue moving forward. "We need to maintain our drive to win," Holzberg said. "We're still pretty confident but we've got to be able to walk onto the court knowing that we are going to come out on top. It's really important for us to get back on track and beat the teams we should be able to beat. If we want to earn a good seed in the [Big East] tournament we have to play well and win these matches." Regardless of seeding, Rutgers must focus on the task at hand and take care of business against a quality rival this afternoon, Zhang said. "I think we've done a pretty good job of winning the matches we were supposed to win," Zhang said. "Rankings will be what they will be. We just need to concentrate on beating St. John's"